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A Note From an Event Professional: Making the Most of Our Time With Little to No Events

March 8, 2021
Taylor Cortolillo, Director, Events and Awards at Ohio National Financial Services, MMB Ambassador

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the careers of event professionals. For many, it continues to do so. While some events are proceeding with caution, many continue to be canceled. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and not having a definitive end in sight makes it even more difficult for us planners.

As planners, we like to take control of a situation and plot out all the details. We like to gather information and be in the know. Living through a pandemic makes this nearly impossible and is a true test of our patience.

So, how can we take control back? How can we make the most of this time with little to no events? Here are a few of my recommendations.

Study up!

Use this time to study, expand your knowledge base and increase your skills. Here are a few ways you can do this:

1. Read articles: MeetingsNet.com and SmartMeetings.com are two of my favorite industry websites with articles on a wide variety of event-related topics.

2. Attend webinars: MeetingsNet, Smart Meetings, PCMA and the Event Leadership Institute offer webinars. Some are free while some have a cost associated with them. Both PCMA and ELI frequently offer scholarship opportunities, so be sure to check out those!

3. Work on certifications: Now is a great time to work on certifications. Cvent is currently offering free certificate programs (usually around $300). ELI also has great certificate programs, but they have a cost. Again, check on those scholarship opportunities!

Become a COVID pro!

When we do finally get back to meetings, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible. You must have a thorough understanding of how COVID spreads, how you can keep attendees safe while on-site, and what to do if someone gets sick before, during and after your event. Here are four ways you can become a COVID pro:

1. Read articles on the CDC website regarding events and travel.

2. Become a certified Pandemic Compliance Advisor: Health Education Services hosts this 3-hour course. It is packed full of information and tips to prepare you for your safe, successful events. The course culminates in a quiz and requires a passing grade of 80% or higher. The cost is $75.

3. Learn about contact tracing: John Hopkins University offers the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course free on Coursera. Contact tracing can be an effective intervention for the spread of COVID-19 and must be conducted with local health authorities whenever there is a new case.

4. Create your COVID handbook. Compile your research into one document and create a planning checklist. You can use this as a guide to help ensure details aren't missed and your event is as safe as possible. Your COVID handbook will need to be a living document, reviewed and updated regularly based on information provided by a trusted source (i.e. the CDC).

Stay current on industry news!

Visit hotel and airline websites to read about how they’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. By understanding how they’re handling social distancing, mask mandates and additional cleaning, you can determine which vendors you will recommend working with once you return to events. Also, check the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) website for industry news. Sign up for their newsletter to receive regular updates.

Build your network!

Now is an important time to build your network. This will provide you with the people and resources you need for advice, insights, updates, recommendations and more. There are many paid membership groups available, like Meeting Professionals International or the International Live Events Association. There are also free groups on LinkedIn. Search for them by typing, “event planning” in the LinkedIn search bar and selecting “event planning in groups” to see a full list of options. Review those that look most interesting to you to find the best fit. There is no limit to the number of groups you can join.

Advocate for the events industry!

This one can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be! You can advocate for your industry by joining coalitions like Meetings Mean Business (MMB) or the Live Events Coalition (LEC). (Note: LEC has a membership fee.) You can also advocate for your industry by sharing articles and resources on platforms like LinkedIn. MMB has several resources available on their website.

We all want to get back to in-person events, and the work we do now will move us in that direction. Implementing one, a few, or all of these recommendations can help prepare you for the return of events in a safe and successful manner.